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Chilean Army in the Hot Seat Over Wiretapping

SANTIAGO – The Chilean Army is once again in the hot seat. This time, the Army is accused of illegally spying on the telephone conversations of four of its own members, but it says the wiretaps were carried out under the law. The Chamber of Deputies has announced that it will question the Minister of Defense, Alberto Espina, and the army’s commander, Ricardo Martínez.

A new scandal roils the Chilean Army: it is accused of wiretapping four of its own members involved in an existing corruption case as either whistleblowers or accused.

As reported by BioBioChile, among those spied on was Captain Rafael Harvey, who was prosecuted and detained for sedition and later declared innocent by the Martial Court on June 12.

The subject telephone conversations were intercepted by the Dirección de Inteligencia del Ejército (Army Intelligence Directorate aka DINE, which, at the time was, was overseen by the-Commander in Chief Oviedo Arriagada, who is now himself currently under investigation for corruption.

September 11: It Happened Here

In order to obtain permission for the wiretaps, the military argued that the targets “could be delivering information that affected the institution and national security.”

As reported by BioBioChile, however, the related documents analyzed do “not reveal problems for the national or operational security of the Army,” but rather “information on how investigations were conducted that supported justice for corruption cases,” among which is the recognized “Milicogate,” a case in which CLP$6 billion (about US$8.45 million) was stolen from Copper Reserve Law funds.

Before publishing the investigation, BioBioChile asked for the Army’s “version” of events, but the Army declined, declaring, that due to the Intelligence Law, it was obliged to “keep it a secret.”

Nevertheless, after BioBioChile published this detailed report, the Army issued a press release asserting that its intelligence and counterintelligence activities were carried out legally and under the protection of Law No. 19,974, in addition to having “the approval of the Ministers of the Court of Appeals of Santiago appointed for that purpose.”

The National Intelligence Commission of the Chamber of Deputies announced that it will summon Defense Minister Alberto Espina and Army Commander,Ricardo Martínez to appear before the commission, in order to explain the purpose of the challenged interceptions.

Thus far, views are divided

Supporting the Army is Senator Víctor Pérez, a member of the National Defense Commission of the Upper House, who, according to Cooperativa, dismissed doubts that the wiretaps were anything but legal. He added, “It is striking that this generates so much noise, when the major public criticism asked for control over [the Army’s] personnel; and now that there is [control], this whole situation is generated.”

On the other hand, Deputy Álvaro Carter, who is part of the Defense Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, condemned the situation, calling it “really unpresentable,” as reported by BioBioChile.

The president of the Defense Commission, Jorge Brito, also criticized the current Intelligence Law as “precarious.”

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